Unsung hero: T. Wiley Carr


Jeff LamsonGeneral Assignment Reporter

It was never his plan to teach, but now T. Wiley Carr has been at Southern since 1992 teaching students the arts of painting and printmaking.

Carr received his bachelors of fine arts from Indiana University. He then proceeded to get his masters from Yale in 1987.  At Yale, he taught color and color theory as a graduate student for 2 years. Carr said that he just knew that he wanted to paint.

“But,” Carr said, “I enjoyed the experience—teaching—because I found getting feedback from students kept me really engaged and thinking about how I made my own work.”

He said that he’s more concerned with being a liaison to help students follow their own vision. The way to do this, said the painting and printmaking professor, is to respect the student, be open to their ideas and to grant them a certain level of freedom.

Carr said that he views teaching as a journey with an emphasis on exploration and self-analysis.

Quoting George Bernard Shaw, Carr said, “I’m not a teacher: only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead – ahead of myself as well as you.” Carr has a photo of this quote saved on his desktop.

Carr said that he helps students isolate subject matter that they can make their own, personal work. “It doesn’t have to be super profound, but it can be. It can have lots of layers of complexity.” He did also say that his approach and style of teaching is still changing to this day.

He grew appreciative of how guiding people can help them. Carr said that he was not an art therapist but recognizes the, “positive value in being creative.”

One of Carr’s projects is the copyrighted Painter’s Pointing Stick Project. In this, Carr goes to places and takes photos of places and things that he wishes to document. His pointer stick is pointed at places where he has or will collect pigment samples.

He takes these samples of rocks, minerals, roots or even bugs, and grinds them into a pigment to be used in watercolor paintings of that place. One of Carr’s goals for the future is to visit more diverse locations in terms of geography, geology and elevation from sea level.

In a way of giving back, Carr has taken to making art that is not typical of a gallery show. These works, such as a mural at Yale New Haven Children’s hospital, are mostly anonymous. They serve a larger audience and Carr said that it was very gratifying.

Finding value in collaboration and working with a group, Carr says that such projects, such as his work with glass and ice, are special and rewarding in their own way.

Carr said that if the time comes when he is not a full-time professor, he would still like to stay engaged and remain involved with Southern’s diverse community.

While he said that he maybe has not gotten to do as much of his own work as he would have liked, he does not feel deprived because he likes teaching.

As to why, Carr said that he is grateful to be part of someone’s education and expression: “It gives people options for how to express themselves they may not have considered before.”

Photo Credit: Jeff Lamson

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